There are many ways to stretch before a soccer game for the purpose of loosening the muscles to avoid pain and injury during rigorous play. There seems to be a set of stretching techniques offered by the sports medicine community to condition the body for physical exertion. But are these techniques right for everyone?
Having played and coached soccer for over thirty years now, I have witnessed all sorts of ways that amateur athletes go through stretching before a game and I have tried some myself at the urging of others. I have never continued with these stretching methods, however, because they caused a certain discomfort that seemed to hamper my game. Warming up for a game by stretching was not for me.
Most players stretch before a game, but there are some of us who forgo this practice for our own warm-up techniques. It seems to me, based on my observations over the years, that the most staunch supporters of long pre-game stretching periods were also those players who suffered from all kinds of problems with their legs and their knees and pulling muscles and getting cramps.
I have rarely had injury problems from pulled or cramping muscles, only two or three times ever. I do not stretch before a soccer game. I do realize the importance of preparing the body for this type of exercise, but I go through a ritual that has kept me virtually injury free (except those caused by opponents during play) and works more effectively for me. In fact, stretching does not have a positive effect on my performance or injury proneness. The couple of times that I have stretched actually made me less effective.
The way I have warmed-up for every single soccer game that I have ever played, and there were over seven hundred of them, was by simply dribbling the ball a little bit at an easy trot and then passing back and forth with another player and then taking hard shots into the goal. Just going through the motions of kicking the soccer ball back and forth and running and shooting, that type of thing, just nice and easy at first and then more vigorous as game time approached.
Now I am not saying that this is the right way to warm up for any kind of sport. We all have our own thoughts on what is the best way to condition for an upcoming sporting event and I have always believed that whatever works for you is the right thing for you to do. But I have noticed that those soccer players who warmed-up in the same way as I was by just slowly getting into working with the ball without any kind of stretching beforehand were also the ones with the least problems with tight muscles and cramps and that sort of thing. Nothing scientific, just my observation over three decades.
I do agree that there are benefits to light stretching to get the kinks out if you have not been active for sometime, but if you participate in some type of physical exertion on a regular basis, a heavy stretching period may not be your best option. Your body will tell you what’s right for you by trying several warm-up techniques. Just like some ways do not work for me, my methods for getting warmed-up may not be for everyone, either. The key is to just do something to get loose, both physically and mentally, before a soccer game without going overboard.